Disclaimer : This is a work of fiction and does not imply anything about anyone, real or imagined.
Chapter 1 : Encounters
Tristan finished buttoning up his shirt. He looked in the mirror and seemed pleased with himself. He wasn't the vain type, but today would be the day to look good in his opinion. His dirty blond hair was neatly cropped, his face clean shaven, and he was wearing his best clothes. With a sigh he turned away from the mirror and made his way to the kitchen to find something small to eat.
Something fluttered in his stomach, and he suddenly felt hollow and nauseous. Shaking off the feeling angrily he picked up a bright red apple and bit out a chunk before chewing on the sweet piece in his mouth. He shook his head in bewilderment. It wasn't like him to feel anxious about anything. He was 23, successful, and had braved off far larger obstacles than this. He knew he was fooling himself. Today he'd meet someone he'd obsessed over for countless nights, and even days. It was only a teen crush, if such a thing could exist in an adult, but it didn't make the feelings any less real. Ever since he'd seen Zac Efron, he'd felt a pouring of emotions at the mere mention of his name. He would have called it love, but that would have been an idiotic concept -- he'd never even met the man. Still, the dizzy feelings, the nasty ache of his heart beating against his chest as if trying to escape -- all of them were symptoms he experienced every time he laid eyes on the guy. It was a cruel fate to be forced to meet the man, but at the same time he thought he wanted to go mad with desire at the thought of doing so.
The doorbell rang. He realized with irritation that he'd been standing on the same spot and had long since consumed the apple. Muttering to himself, he walked to the door and opened it.
"Hello babes," the pretty girl said as she stood on her tiptoes to give him a hug. He was tall, even for a man.
Tristan couldn't help but smile at Jen's appearance. They'd been friends for over a decade and could share anything with one another. She was extremely attractive, a fact that she ignorantly ignored despite the fact that so many men literally stared at her. In another life, she would have been his perfect partner, though the irony of the situation still amused him. She was a woman of stunning beauty who ignored other guys, and then told him on the night of his 21st birthday how deeply in love with him she was. Naturally the scene had been disastrous, because he had been forced to come out to her at that very moment, thus ruining years of infatuation on her part, and forcing his hand to fly through years of terror at confessing to being gay. He remembered how she'd slapped his face, how his cheek burnt in that winter air, how tears ran down her face as she sobbed and ran off. Luckily her tirade had only lasted three days, though truthfully he wondered at the time if he'd seen the last of her. On the fourth day she arrived at his house, embraced him, gave him a massive bar of chocolate and sat around the fire in his arms and helped him eat it. He knew then that they'd be friends forever. He thought that finding a guy to be with would be difficult, but then he saw how badly straight guys treated Jen. He'd lost count at how many times he'd consoled her after another guy had just used her, cut her out of his life, or tried to force her into something. It made him sick.
"Jen," he said, with a warm smile. He couldn't help but smile when she was around, and he returned the hug warmly.
"Still no servants?" she said with a coy smile.
"Servants in an apartment?" he said wryly.
"Yeah, another thing we should talk about," she said with rolling eyes while placing her bag on a chair.
"We have talked about it. I'm happy here," he said patiently.
With a sigh she flopped onto the chair and turned on the television. Her lack of propriety around him was one of her most appealing features.
"I suppose I should be grateful I managed to get you to move out of that rat hole and into this upmarket place. Though to be honest Tris, if I had your money I'd live in a huge mansion, or just buy the whole building."
Sitting next to her, he placed his arm around her. "That rat hole was faithful to me for years, you dimwit. Besides, I'd rather have my parents back."
"Yeah," she said sadly. He regretted dampening the mood, but what he'd said was true. His parents had died over a year previously in a plane crash. They spent most of their lives jetting between Europe and the States, so it was no surprise that one day their private jet just took a dive into the Atlantic and was never seen again. Perhaps he was being too cynical, but it did help him cope with the tragedy. His parents had been fabulously wealthy but he'd always hated what had been attached to huge quantities of money. There was something false and binding amidst all that cash. He'd moved out of home as soon as he could, and supported his own studies and accommodation. His friends thought him idiotic to the point of being a basket case, but his father had admitted to him once that his actions had nurtured a feeling of deep respect in his son. He'd always been close to his parents, but he remembered that day most vividly of all. Hearing that his father had left him absolutely everything had been a shock and a deep sadness to him. He'd have given anything to see his parents alive and well. He'd appointed a proxy CEO to stand in his place, and made no secret of his inherent lack of business knowledge. His interest lay in graphic design. The CEO and the board liked him, and still used him as a symbol for the company to perform random tasks. They openly admitted that it was because of his pretty face, and that good looks seal more deals than bald-headed businessmen. He resented the implication, but felt that he couldn't abandon his dad's business entirely, and therefore he helped whenever asked, which occurred about four to six times a year.
"Besides, if I did live in a huge mansion, I wouldn't associate with a commoner like you," he said, trying to lighten the mood.
"Oh really?" she said, suddenly regaining her mood. Throwing a pillow at him, she added, "don't forget that I can still whip your ass if I choose to."
"I rarely forget that," he said with a laugh, as he started to relax into the chair.
Jen lay on her back and stared at the ceiling. "Are you nervous about tonight?"
"No," he said, much too quickly. "Of course I'm not. It's a business deal like any other," he added, trying to cover his tracks.
A malicious smile formed at the corner of her mouth, but she didn't look at him. "You are such a bad liar. You're lucky you decided not to go into business. You wouldn't have lasted a second."
"I never settled into the habit of lying as easily as you did, Jen," he said with a mocking smile.
"True, but then you never had to," she said with a smirk. Working for Vogue was apparently like working in a pool of sharks, with each fish keeping a lookout for any sign of weakness.
Tristan lay on his back with his hand behind his head. "Truth is I am nervous, Jen." He couldn't look at her.
"Tell me," she said as she turned onto her side, supporting her head in her hand, her face suddenly made serious by her tone.
"I like this guy. A lot. I know it's the most fucking ridiculous thing ever, but I can hardly think when I see a picture of him. Meeting him may be too much. The board really did make a bad choice in this case. If I mess it up..."
"Why would you mess it up?" she asked.
"I don't know how I'll react around him. I might freeze. Hell, I might attack him," he said with sad laugh.
"Is there anything I can do?" she asked sympathetically.
"There is something. Could you... come with me? I know it's a lot to ask, but..."
"Done," she said, sitting up.
"But I haven't..."
"Tris, you may have forgotten, but I actually do like guys. I'll get to see him too. It'll be a great celeb party, and there will be a good bar. Plus I get to help my friend. What do you need to beg for?"
He smiled at her. "You are really the best, you know. Where are you going?" He noticed that she was heading for the door.
"Well I assume the party is tonight, so I need to change."
"There's no time, Jen. I've got to be there in an hour. Just go like you are."
She gave him a disgusted look. "I wouldn't be seen dead in public like this, except maybe by you."
"Huh. Thanks," he said. "So then where are you going?"
"One of the advantages of working in the fashion industry is that you get access to a lot of the good stuff. I have some nice pieces in my car. I'll need to use your bathroom, though."
"Sure," he said, but she was already walking out of the apartment. Despite what she said, she actually looked great dressed as she was. He wanted to tell her that the disadvantage of working in the fashion industry was that one set impossibly high standards for a personal dress code. He suddenly felt conscious of what he was wearing, and considered asking her whether he was well dressed for the event. He decided against it, thinking that he would look too closely into any answer she returned. He decided to take the fact that she'd said nothing as a sign of her passive acceptance of his attire.
Five minutes later she was back with a load of clothes covered in various the covers of famous fashion houses. Without a word she rushed into the bathroom and closed the door. Settling onto the couch, he decided to browse mindlessly through the TV channels. He couldn't even remember what he'd seen, but fifteen minutes later she tapped his shoulder. Turning off the TV, he stood and almost gasped.
"What?" she said, pausing in the act of putting in a gold earring.
"You look hot!" he said. It was a dodgy admission for a gay man, but a long white dress clung to her features and more than hinted at a physically perfect body. He almost started to doubt his sexuality, and wondered if she might cause too much attention at the function.
She snorted derisively. "A year or two ago that comment would have made me a very happy woman."
He smiled at her, and she returned it. "Let's go," he said, and they left the apartment.
Almost an hour later they'd entered the party venue. It was everything he'd expected and despised from this sort of function. The music was too loud, the lights too bright, and everyone was talking so loudly all he could hear was an irritating drone of humanity.
"Where do we go?" Jen screamed into his ear.
"I'll find out," he replied right into her ear.
A moment later, and after some intensive interrogation, they were led to a slightly quieter region of the club. His ears were ringing from the memory of music. The area had an elite feel to it, and patrons were well dressed and less tightly packed, but still chatting with unnecessary volume and mannerisms. Turning the corner they stood at the entrance to a very large room filled with at least fifty people in small groups. The room was brightly lit, and the music ominously quiet. Tristan suddenly wished for the protection of the crowd outside. At the far end of the room sitting on a stylish couch, and surrounded by nodding sycophants sat Zac. Tristan recognized him instantly. He was telling the crowd around him some sort of story, but he seemed relaxed. His arms were spread out wide along the top of the couch, and Tristan noticed with curious trepidation that he and Zac wore the same collared dark blue shirt.
"Tris," he heard in his right ear.
"Yeah?" he said with distraction.
"Tristan!" she said with more effort.
"What?" he said angrily, as he turned to her.
"You're as white as a sheet, my boy," she said. She looked at him with amused curiosity.
"I need a drink," he said, turning to go to the bar.
"I'll go with you," she said.
"No!" he almost shouted, and then moderated his tone. "They'll notice if we both leave. Go introduce yourself, and I'll return as soon as I can."
"Okay," she said, showing anxiety for the first time. "But if you leave me there alone for too long, I'm going to make you suffer."
"I won't be long. I just need something to take the edge off," he replied, after squeezing her arm affectionately.
Walking to the bar, he shook his head. What a disaster. Zac was impossibly good looking. It was too much to think that he was compelled to talk to the guy later that evening. He paused and considered fetching Jen and going home, but realized that she must have introduced herself by then. His heart was beating in his chest, and he felt sweat running down his back. His stomach started to cramp, and for the second time that day he felt sick.
"You okay, buddy?" the barman shouted.
"Give me anything," he said with his head in his hands.
A moment later a strange red-brown drink was placed in front of him. "I've seen it all before," the barman said. Tristan raised his head with a frown. "It's the same every time. She's not worth it," the barman said.
"I'll keep that in mind," Tristan said wryly, before downing half the drink in a second. He left the remnant of the drink where it was and headed back to the room in question. He chuckled darkly at the barman's comment, and how it seemed to lighten his mood. Suddenly he started to feel confident, but as he entered the room he felt that his feet were ice, and he struggled to move. Trying to maintain a normal pace, he approached the crowd. Jen's back was to him, and Zac and his friends were laughing. The introductions seemed to be going well, which was no surprise as Jen was a natural.
Tristan approached from the side, and intended to meet Zac with a smile. He caught Jen's eye, and something passed between them. She wasn't smiling. If he didn't know better he thought she was about to cry. He started to approach her when Zac started to speak.
"Don't you have an answer for me, hotty?" he said loudly for all his friends to hear. "I asked if you want to come with me to the back room. I'll give you a ride we all know only Zac can deliver."
Zac's friends laughed again. Tristan couldn't believe what he was hearing. It seemed almost surreal.
"What's going on here?" he asked Jen, but his voice carried.
Suddenly there was silence. Zac sat forward with irritation, and everyone around him instantly wished they were somewhere else. His eyes locked with Zac, and for a moment Zac's eyes widened and his mouth opened slightly as if he wanted to say something. A second later a hard mask covered his features again, and his eyes angered.
"Who are you, her fucking boyfriend?" he said nastily.
"Who the fuck are you?" he replied. White hot anger burned in his mind.
Zac jumped to his feet and started poking at Tristan's chest. Zac was slightly shorter than him, and any other time the proximity and contact would have driven him crazy, but this was a dangerously perverse situation.
"You mean you don't know?" Zac laughed. "Boy you must be a retard. Anyway, I was wondering why you interrupted my business meeting, dickwad."
He looked Zac in the eyes, and knew that his own eyes had to be as cold as ice.
"You call this a business meeting? To answer your question, she's my associate, so I have every right."
"Oh now it makes sense," Zac said with a laugh and turned to his friends who returned his smile sheepishly. Zac turned back to him. "Run back to your company and tell them I don't deal with fucking reps. If they want a production deal, then send me the CEO, and I know what he looks like, so don't try and fucking con me."
Tristan suddenly found some warmth in the situation. Admittedly, meeting his obsession had turned out to be a nightmare, but he had the means to crush this arrogant prick.
"Your acting productions are facilitated by Wheeler International, right?" he said.
Zac's silent stare answered his question.
"And your music is sponsored by Holstead Limited, and has been so since the beginning of your career."
"Are you here to tell me about my career?" Zac said with a snarky expression.
"Indeed. I'll tell you a quick story, if you'll permit me. Wheeler Incorporated facilitates most acting and stage productions in Hollywood along with DeVille and Demarko, but both companies fall under a single parent company. Holstead sponsors most mainstream music talents, and it falls under the same parent company as those other two. If you remove Wheeler, D&D, and Holstead, you've got the competition who manages only ten percent of the remaining talent in Hollywood, of whom almost none make it. Your meeting here was to incorporate your acting and singing talent under the banner of the parent company."
"So what's your point, asshole?" Zac said with crossed arms.
"The point is that the parent company, Van der Meer International doesn't need to do anything. You're already a contracted client of its subsidiaries. We're merely trying to make it easier for you. The gain is minimal on our part. However, with a snap of our fingers you'll lose every dollar, and everything."
Tristan held up his left hand, which Zac followed with a frown. He snapped his fingers, and the silence was palpable.
"You don't have that authority," Zac laughed, but there was no mistaking the unease in his voice. "Only the CEO can overwrite my contract. Even I know that."
"I have that authority, and I'm going to use it."
"Bullshit. You'd never kick your star earner," he quipped.
Tristan laughed and cast a pitiful glance in his Zac's direction. "Your opinion of yourself amuses me, Zac. My company makes over eighty billion dollars a year. What are you but a flyspeck on the screen of our success? There are fifty guys waiting to take your place."
Zac's eyes were suddenly fearful. "Who are you?"
"I am Van der Meer," he said simply.
"Tristan van der Meer. Oh my god," said a voice from behind Zac. A middle aged man was suddenly next to Zac. "Sir, if we could just sit down and start again, we could avoid all of this unpleasantness. It was a misunderstanding."
Zac was mouthing Tristan's name to himself silently, and shock was painted over his face, which was red with humiliation. He seemed to recover rapidly, and he flashed a smile at Tristan. Holding out his hand, he appeared to be warm and friendly. "Yeah, let's forget all this nonsense. I'm Zac, and I like your shirt."
Tristan was shocked at the insincerity of the man, and looked at his hand as if it was a viper. "No, you like your own shirt, Zac. You people disgust me with your falseness. How dare you treat my friend in such a manner!? Many things will change after today, Zac Efron, but you can most assuredly count on one thing: your career IS over."
With that he turned and headed for the door, his arm around Jen. The room was so silent you could have heard a pin drop. Zac almost collapsed onto the couch, and his manager held his head in his hands, surely wondering how to deal with the cataclysmic situation he found himself in.
Tristan and Jen drove in silence for a time. His head was swimming with emotions, and he wanted to cry out at how devastating the revelation had been. Zac Efron was a complete asshole. It was almost too much to process.
"Are you okay?" he said to Jen, and squeezed her leg warmly.
She turned to him, and smiled weakly. "Yeah. I was just surprised that all."
"That makes two of us," he replied while staring ahead at the road. "We should have known, though. Too many people worship him. It's inevitable he'd think so much of himself."
"I guess, but I'd hoped it would be different," she said.
"Me too," he sighed.
They drove in silence for until they approached his apartment. As they entered his apartment, she hugged him tightly, tighter than he could ever remember. She looked up at him.
"I'm so proud of you," she said, and her eyes filled with tears. "You stood up for what you thought was right. It couldn't have been easy. I'll never forget it."
He hugged her back, more for himself than for her. The disappointment and grief at their encounter was starting to overwhelm his subsiding anger. Without any further words she waved with a smile, and left.
Without any further thoughts, he took off his shirt and turned off every light as he walked to his room. Collapsing on his bed, he suddenly felt exhaustion to the point of wanting to die. With a final sigh of disappointment, he fell into a dreamless sleep, and slept long into the next morning.
Zac rolled on his bed. He'd been trying to sleep for hours. His sheets were in disarray, and his pillows lay in a deformed fashion all over his bed. He sat up in his bed, and looked at his watch. It was 4am. His body was covered in sweat and his eyes were heavy with sleep deprivation. Nightmarish fragments of the previous evening flogged the pieces of sleep he'd managed to steal.
"Tristan," he whispered. The word passed warmly over his lips. The image of Tristan standing over him with a sword coming down to finish him once again rushed into his mind.
He'd finally picked the wrong woman to tease, and has pissed off the wrong guy. He'd thought himself infallible, and had inadvertently started a fight with a commercial giant. Tristan was serious -- he saw it in his eyes. Those eyes... he could look into them forever. With a deflated sigh, he fell back onto his pillow and looked up vacantly. If only he could turn time back. There was no way he could salvage this situation, and his agent had almost had a heart attack after that so-called meeting.
What a disaster. What could he do? What could he do?
Thanks for reading chapter 1!
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